How to Train Your Dragon 2, based on the series of children’s books by Cressida Cowell, bears only a very slight resemblance to anything she wrote. But it doesn’t matter. The film, like the first, is a real treat.
The plot begins five years after events in the first. All seems well in our favourite coastal Viking village where people inexplicably speak with Scottish accents. They seem to have little to worry about, except who wins the dragon races. But Hiccup – who incidentally has somehow invented a kind of dragon lightsabre – has taken to exploring further and further afield with his dragon Toothless, and one day he comes across…
Actually, I don’t want to reveal too much as its more fun to discover the film yourself. But do beware the trailers as I think they spoil one or two things that would have best been kept a surprise. Vocal talent from the previous film return to give another set of fine performances – including Jay Baruchel, America Fererra, Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill and Kristen Wiig. They are joined by newcomers including Djimon Hounsou and most importantly Cate Blanchett who voices… well, as I said earlier, I shan’t spoil it.
The animation is top-notch and the visual palette nothing less than stunning. Icescapes, seascapes and melancholy cloudscapes provide a seriously epic, beautiful look for the film. Director Dean DeBlois makes superb use of widescreen space that will inevitably look considerably diminished on television, and really it came as no surprise to see legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins on the end credits as a visual consultant (as he was on the first film). Finally John Powell builds brilliantly on the magnificent music score he composed for the first film, adding new themes and variations appropriate to the darker tone of this sequel.
On a moral/spiritual level, this covers familiar ground about family and finding one’s destiny, particularly with reference to discovering the selflessness and responsibility necessary for good leadership. But whilst this is certainly a worthy sequel, I must confess to preferring the first film – based on one viewing at least. That isn’t necessarily a criticism, merely a personal preference for the simpler, more whimsical tone of the original.
That said, How to Train Your Dragon 2 does a tremendous job of expanding and building on what came before. There is one sequence towards the end that might upset younger or more sensitive children, but don’t let that put you off what is certainly a fun trip to the moves for audiences of all ages.